Tottenham Hotspur 3 v AFC Wimbledon 0
AFC Wimbledon held Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur for over an hour in their FA Cup third round tie at Wembley on Sunday (7 January) before three quick-fire goals eased the north Londoners through to the next round.
The hosts paid Wimbledon the compliment of including prolific forward Harry Kane in their starting line-up, and predictably Dons manager Neal Ardley chose a defensive 4-5-1 formation, with the midfield dropping back to almost on top of the defence when the Spurs had possession.
It was enough to thwart the home side, who enjoyed plenty of possession around the Wimbledon box and, when they did managed to break through, found goalkeeper George Long in good form. Long was in action early on as he fisted away a firm shot from Érik Lamela after he had been set up by Fernando Llorente.
When Wimbledon did get the ball they did their best to get men forward to support Lyle Taylor, and it nearly paid off in spectacular style around the half-hour mark. George Francomb got forward and exchanged passes with Liam Trotter. Although Francomb’s pass was blocked, the ball fell to Taylor who laid it off to Jimmy Abdou. Abdou’s strike from just outside the box seemed to be curling in but Michel Vorm got his hands to it and turned it onto the bar before being relieved that the rebound hit his head and bounced away, with Vorm recovering to gather Trotter’s follow-up shot.
Long was tested by Kane for the first time shortly afterwards when the Spurs man swapped passes with Llorente on the edge of the Dons box before unleashing a shot that the goalkeeper dived full length to palm away.
And four minutes before the break Lamela got behind the Dons’ defence following a surging run and threaded pass by Moussa Sissoko, but Long did enough to turn it behind when Lamela seemed odds-on to score.
Long’s heroics and stout defending earned the Dons a creditable 0-0 half-time score line, but shortly after the interval they again threatened to take the lead. Darius Charles went on an unlikely forward surge through the midfield that was curtailed by Victor Wanyama’s foul. From the Francomb free-kick, Charles got in a firm header that Vorm did well to turn behind for a corner as it threatened to dip beneath the bar.
The Dons were grateful to fortune shortly afterwards when Moussa Dembélé’s shot from outside the area smacked the post and rebounded onto Long’s prostrate back before being gathered by the keeper.
It was a sign of Tottenham’s growing frustration that on the hour mark they brought on Korean playmaker Son Heung-min, and three minutes later they were ahead. For the first time all match Wimbledon were caught slightly napping down the left flank and Sissoko’s low ball into the goal area was deflected home by – inevitably – Kane.
And minutes later it was 2-0, with Kane again on the scoresheet. Kyle Walker-Peters produced a strong run and capped it with a shot, only for it to deflect straight into the path of Kane who swept the ball home from close range for his 26th goal of the season.
Tottenham were rampant now, and brought on Dele Alli for some panto-season abuse from the travelling AFC Wimbledon supporters because of his prior connection with a certain club in Milton Keynes, but Alli nearly set up a third as he released Son and his ball across the goal was frantically turned behind by Jon Meades at the far post.
The final goal came with slightly less than 20 minutes remaining. Taylor received the ball deep in his own half and, with limited options, attempted to play his way through three Spurs players who had gathered around him. Predictably, it wasn’t Taylor who emerged with the ball; instead it was Jan Vertonghen, who took a couple of strides before firing home a long-range shot that gave Long no chance.
The Wimbledon fans now started humorously chanting, ‘We’re going to win 4-3’, and the visitors did respond by bringing on striker Cody McDonald and attacking midfielder Harry Forrester, but in truth any shape that the team had then disintegrated as instead of attempting to quickly counterattack they resorted to long, hopeful balls that were quickly regained by the Tottenham defence.
The final whistle brought warm applause from the 7,700 travelling Wimbledon supporters as they recognised the effort that the team had put into the performance, and for an hour it seemed that an improbable result might be on the cards.
Neal Ardley told the club’s iFollow Dons channel: ‘When you play against these teams it is very hard to get out and get some territorial advantage. We did our best. They put out a strong team but we frustrated them.
‘Probably the slightly disappointing thing is that for 60 minutes we stopped them – we just got a couple of things wrong for their goals, but I cannot be too critical. The boys have run themselves into the ground out there today.’
And Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said: ‘It was a difficult game. Wimbledon played so well. They had a few changes which they could have scored from. The second half was difficult – they started well and had some chances.’
The Dons return to more prosaic action on Saturday (13 January) for a league trip to Milton Keynes that could have a big say in the fortunes of both clubs over the coming months. They then follow that up by entertaining Blackpool at Kingsmeadow on Saturday 20 January.
Tottenham: Vorm, Trippier, Foyth, Vertonghen, Walker-Peters, Sissoko (Alli 65), Wanyama, Dembélé, Lamela, Kane (Nkoudou 79), Llorente (Son Heung-min 59). Subs not used: Lloris, Dier, Eriksen, Davies.
Goalscorers: Kane 63, 65, Vertonghen 71.
Booked: Wanyama 48.
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Charles, Meades, Francomb, Soares (Hartigan 79), Trotter, Abdou (McDonald 70), Barcham (Forrester 69), Taylor. Subs not used: Nightingale, Kaja, Kennedy, McDonnell.
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January 12, 2018